Deconstructing Hoboken: Photomontages by Sterne Slaven

January 30 - March 6, 2011

Artist/photographer Sterne Slaven has an eye for the industrial soul of Hoboken. When he moved here in 1983, after graduating art school, he found himself drawn again and again to the old factory buildings in his uptown neighborhood: Ferguson Propeller Works, the old Shipyard machine shop, the Maxwell House coffee plant. He captured haunting images of many of these buildings, some in the process of being dismantled.

Born in Pittsburgh but raised in suburban Englewood, N.J., Slaven says he’s always had an affinity for old, rusting factories and broken glass and metal. He returned to Pittsburgh to study drawing and photography at Carnegie-Mellon University, and moved to Hoboken afterwards not just because the rents were more affordable than in Manhattan, but because he liked the look and feel of the city, and was happy to stay west of the Hudson, where his family still lives. In his career, he’s worked as a photographer’s assistant, carpenter and prototype model maker in industrial design.

For this show, Deconstructing Hoboken: Photomontages by Sterne Slaven, he incorporated the photographs, along with some double exposures and abstracted patterns from old buildings, into intriguing large-scale composite images. Some date from the midto late 1980s, and some are more recent. They depict Hoboken’s industrial buildings in their twilight years, including the huge ship propellers that used to lie on their sides in the yard of the Ferguson Propeller Works at 12th and Grand St. The effect of the layered photos in the montages and the use of double exposures gives the images a ghostly effect, as though the buildings have left traces— which they have for anyone who lived here at the time.

“Though perhaps not consciously,” Slaven says, “the pieces, with their overlapping and transparencies and general visual chaos, seem to echo the deconstruction of the buildings themselves, their broken windows and piles of twisted rebar.”

Slaven’s first Hoboken Museum exhibit opens on Sunday, Jan. 30, with a free opening reception from 2 – 5 p.m. His work has also been shown in galleries and juried exhibitions in Hoboken, New York, Pennsylvania and most recently at the Englewood Library in 2006. Slaven will give an illustrated talk about his work on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m., and his work will be on display through Mar. 6. The exhibit is supported by a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.